Press Release: Maryland Lawmakers Fail to File Physician-Assisted Suicide Legislation

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ANNAPOLIS, Md. – Maryland lawmakers will not consider legislation this session that would legalize the dangerous practice of physician-assisted suicide (PAS). After failing to advance the legislation for the last three sessions due to bi-partisan opposition, lawmakers have decided not to file the bill during a session that falls in an election year.  

“By not filing this legislation during a controversial election year, supporters of PAS are tacitly acknowledging that this is flawed legislation with strong opposition in Maryland. However, we expect that PAS supporters will be back next year and the struggle to keep our healthcare system safe from this practice will continue,” said Dr. Joseph Marine, Associate Professor of Medicine at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “Physician-assisted suicide is a dangerous proposition for Maryland and there is widespread concern among the medical community at large on the harmful implications of legalizing this practice.”  

Last session’s bill was criticized as dangerously flawed, specifically because it would endanger vulnerable populations, such as the elderly and people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, opening the door for abuse and coercion.

“It is the position of The Arc Maryland that physician-assisted suicide would be dangerous for people with intellectual disability (ID) due to the inherent risk of undue influence,” said Ande Kolp, Executive Director of The Arc Maryland. “Laws and associated procedures, no matter how strict, are insufficient to protect people with ID from being coerced into ending their lives.  When a person is seriously ill and in pain, the use of appropriate medical or palliative care to reduce and/or eliminate pain and discomfort can and should be provided.”

Past legislation filed in Maryland would have allowed doctors to prescribe a lethal dose of dangerous controlled substances to a patient who has received a terminal prognosis of six months or less. The drugs typically prescribed are highly addictive and so easily misused that they are classified in the same drug category by the Federal Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) as cocaine, OxyContin, and fentanyl, to name a few. Legalizing PAS would introduce large quantities of dangerous controlled substances not currently being prescribed into our State, many which will go unused; an outcome that runs counter to the many efforts being made statewide to curb the prescription drug abuse epidemic.

 “In states where physician-assisted suicide is legal we know that many patients will receive but never take the lethal dose. In California, patients are even allowed to receive their lethal prescription via mail, eliminating any controls to prevent them from falling into the wrong hands,” said Christine Sybert, Clinical Pharmacist at St. Agnes Hospital in Baltimore. “There is a very real concern that by legalizing the practice of physician-assisted suicide we are exposing our communities to a new source of addiction and harm due to drug misuse and abuse.”

Maryland Against Physician Assisted Suicide has consistently opposed  past PAS legislation. Additional concerns include:

  • No doctor, nurse, family member or independent witness is required to be present when the lethal dose is taken.
  • There is no requirement that patients receive a mental health evaluation before doctors can authorize physician-assisted suicide.
  • There is no way to accurately predict a six-month prognosis.
  • PAS is seen as a cost savings measure for insurance companies, including state Medicaid programs.
  • Legislative focus should be on strengthening and promoting end-of-life care options such as palliative care and hospice.

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